Following its success over the past two years with its two-part adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, the National Theatre will adapt another award-winning children’s book, Jamila Gavin’s Coram Boy, for this Christmas in the NT Olivier. The newly announced autumn/winter repertory period, running from September 2005 to January 2006 across the NT’s three auditoria, will also feature new plays by Mike Leigh and Howard Brenton and revivals of Ibsen’s Pillars of the Community and Kaufman and Hart’s Once in a Lifetime.

In the Olivier

Coram Boy, which won the Whitbread Children’s Book of the Year Award in 2000, opens the new Olivier schedule on 15 November 2005 (previews from 2 November). Adapted by Helen Edmundson (whose previous literary adaptations include War and Peace, The Clearing, Mill on the Floss and Anna Karenina for Shared Experience), it’s directed by Melly Still who also designs with Ti Green. Set in Gloucester and London during the 18th century, Coram Boy follows the fortunes of two very different orphan boys.

It’s joined in the repertoire from 15 December 2005 (previews from 5 December) by Edward Hall’s new production of George S Kaufman and Moss Hart’s 1930 Broadway comedy Once in a Lifetime, which centres on a school set up for brainless Hollywood movie stars from the silent film era as the talkies take over. Hall has previously staged A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and the Kenneth Branagh-led Edmond in the Olivier as part of the Travelex £10 Season. The new production is designed by Mark Henderson.

In the Lyttelton

The new Lyttelton schedule opens on 1 November 2005 (previews from 21 October) with Marianne Elliott directing Samuel Adamson’s new version of Henrik Ibsen’s rarely performed Pillars of the Community, marking the centenary of the Norwegian dramatist’s death. In the 1877 play, businessman Bernick has a long-buried secret that threatens his pristine reputation but devises a pitiless plan to dodge exposure.

For nine performances only, from 11 to 19 November 2005 (preview 10 November), the Lyttelton will also host Just for Show, the new production by physical theatre company DV8, directed by its founder and artistic director Lloyd Newson.

In the Cottesloe

In the NT’s smallest auditorium, the long-awaited – and, as yet, still untitled – new play by Mike Leigh will receive its world premiere on 15 September (previews from 8 September). Leigh and his eight-strong company (John Burgess, Ben Caplan, Allan Corduner, Adam Godley, Caroline Gruber, Nitzan Sharron, Samantha Spiro and Alexis Zegerman) have been devising the piece and exploring character together since 25 April 2005, 18 weeks being the minimum rehearsal time Leigh demands.

The Leigh play is joined in repertoire from 6 October 2005 (previews from 30 September) by the premiere of Paul, the latest play by Howard Brenton (The Romans in Britain, Pravda) which explores the phenomenon of faith through the Biblical story of Saul, who changed his name after divine revelation on the road to Damascus. It’s directed by Howard Davies and designed by Vicki Mortimer.

- by Terri Paddock